Monday, July 16, 2018

Do I Have Something On My Face?


Yes, even back then I was a connoisseur of all things food. I, carefully, examined all the delicacies that met my mouth with scrutiny and the utmost of etiquette. Okay, who are we kidding...I loved food and wore it because it was that good. Not much has changed since then.

I'm not quite sure what it was that I had decimated in that picture, but by the smile on my face, I think it was mighty good. Whether it was a main dish or dessert, that hair plugged infant enjoyed every minute of what she was experiencing. No, I didn't have actual hair plugs but by the light of the camera flash, I look like a very young Albert Einstein in a moment of frenzy.

Often, food can become a comfort when the rest of the world seems to let you down. It can soothe you when your'e grumpy and lift your spirits when you're sad. Grub can be a powerful 'fix all' to the life stuff we perceive to be a bother to us. Some of my comfort foods include spaghetti or a bag of my favorite chips.

Whatever the go-to fare might be, there's just something about chocolate cake for dinner that makes the world go away. In some ways, I wish my addiction was with food and not what they turned out to be - alcohol and sex. Albeit, if there was a choice to be made, no addictions would have been ideal.

Within the, already, complex design of life, addictions are the last things we have in mind. At least, it was for me. I really thought, with stern determination, that my life would be much different than it had become and without any of the sticky webs that can get in the way. Like lack of self-esteem, being rejected, and self-hatred.

You and I were never meant to battle through life like we do but I also wasn't counting on things turning out the way they did growing up. Being an infant was easier, as much as I recall. I was constantly protected because I needed to be carried and looked after, closely. I had to be within arms, eyes, and ears reach of my parents and that was good.

There are just some things that we were not intended to experience or go through but, somehow, we did and those things hurt us...changed us. While we may ponder addictions, in whatever form, to be harmless, they really aren't. Some can be devastating with life long, adverse, effects or life ending consequences. No matter what, we were created for so much more.

The stark contrast between my life now and decades ago, is like a deep draw of fresh air. I can't imagine where I would be if I had continued on my former path of self-destruction. Well, okay, I do know where I would be - six feet under.

So, as much as you think you are a mistake or the self-deprecating things you're doing now won't have long lasting and life changing effects, you are mistaken on both counts. You mean more than you know. You are loved more deeply than you could ever fathom and it is by someone you may not have considered before because no one ever told you about him. He is the reason I am alive today and have fully recovered from the addictions that once haunted me.

So, while I may have that piece of chocolate cake for dinner, once in a while, with remnants showing all over my face, I know that because I stopped long enough to be known and loved by God, that it is why I inhale deeply today. It is my intense experience and close relationship with God that gives me that sigh of relief that says, "I am not the same girl I once was". For that, comes immense gratitude.

Encouragement for the week:

My friend and sweet girl, if there is something in your life that seems to bring you down more than lift you up, it wasn't meant to be a part of your life. Struggles are real, but they don't have to rule you.

If you are a Christian reading this, you know that you were meant for more when you said, "Yes!" to a relationship with Jesus Christ. He has great things in store for you no matter what you are facing, and He can help you overcome all the things that feel overwhelming right now. Call out to God while you keep trusting and obeying Him. You can believe that good will come from the struggle.

If you are not a Christian reading this, you can look for Jesus and you will find Him. He knows what you are going through. He sees the things you are struggling to get rid of in your life. You don't have to wait to have your life sorted out to come to Him. He will help you overcome everything that is hurting you.




Monday, July 9, 2018

The Mamas And The Papas


No, not the band, but specifically, my Mama and Papa. They look pretty happy in the picture above. So, would it be safe to say that I brought them joy? You bet! Just like you brought elation to your mama and papa.

As a mother myself, there is not greater excitement than seeing your child for the very first time. For me, it was the moment I, genuinely, fell in love. It was an incredible experience that never leaves me and is, often, recalled in moments of quiet reflection.

Being a parent is no small task and as kids, we don't truly appreciate the efforts and sacrifices of our parents until we step into parenthood ourselves. Especially if the pregnancy is unexpected or unplanned. Yet, some of the best things in life are unplanned. My pregnancy was unplanned but one of the greatest blessings in my life.

As an infant, while I wasn't fully aware of what my parents were doing to provide for me, I just knew I was cared for and loved. It didn't take a second thought to love them in return. It was natural and comforting to know I had two parents whose world was focused on my life and well being.

Of course, I didn't fully appreciate my parents, and all they did for me, until I was in my twenties and had my own son. Navigating through motherhood took everything I had as I was dealing with post-partum depression, which brought on a lot of anxiety and panic attacks.

Nonetheless, being a parent is hard work and not for the faint of heart. You become responsible for someone who looks to you to provide everything in his/her life. To love, care for, and protect them in all situations. If that doesn't make you nervous, I'm not sure what would.

Yet, nothing will fill your heart or life more than staring into the eyes of that little human being for the first time and, realizing, they came from you and were formed in your own body. To this day, that reality still blows my mind and I don't take parenthood lightly even though I am past my child bearing years.

Babies and children are to be treasured and, in the Bible, there are many instances when Jesus, the Son of God, would spend time with children, welcoming them into His presence. He loved their innocence, purity, and willingness to trust. It enabled them to come to know Jesus in a special way and recognize they could trust Him completely with their hearts. Having a close relationship with Jesus was like second nature to them. That's why Jesus never turned away a baby or child.

We should conduct ourselves the way Jesus did because too many things in this world can threaten the innocence and purity of a little one. For me, my innocence was lost when I experienced abuse by the hands of someone I knew at a very young age. While this life event is something I will address in a future post, I can tell you it changed me in ways I could have never anticipated.

Encouragement for the week:

My friend, was your innocence protected growing up? I truly hope so. If not, I'm very sorry and I understand. Our parents do their very best but can't always be where the threat exists.

While there is no reasonable excuse why that bad thing happened, I can tell you that it will become a part of your unique story and only you will be able to bring healing and wholeness to others because of it. You will help others just as I hope to.

If you are a Christian reading this, you know that your value, identity, and purpose lies in God. He watches over you at all times, from the moment He formed you, until now, whether that is as a young girl, teen, or mature woman. You are not a mistake and no matter what you have gone through or if bad things have happened in your life, you can trust God with your heart.

If you are not a Christian reading this, you can look for Jesus and you will find Him and all the truths He possesses about you. No matter what has happened in your life, you are not a mistake. You are loved and you can find true security and care in a relationship with Jesus Christ. There is no other way.

Monday, July 2, 2018

My Sistah From The Same Mistah


There she is...my sistie. Born in October of 1970, she patiently awaited my arrival even though I'm not sure she really wanted a sibling or not. Yet, there I was and there we are in the photo above. I'm still five months old and it's still my first Christmas.

For some, a sibling can bring a cornucopia of emotions. For siblings can mean so many things. They can torment, tease, or protect. They can love, manipulate, or ignore.

Whatever the case may be, brothers and sisters become a part of a bigger family picture. They can also bring a certain dynamic to an, already, complicated marriage if it's challenging.

For me, it meant someone to play with and look up to. She was taller than me, after all. However, knowing my loyalty to her was stronger than to my parents, you may be thinking it was used to her advantage. It was.

Nonetheless, she would always be my sister and having a relationship with her was important. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't smooth sailing at all times.

There were times when I hated her and other times when I missed and embraced her. We didn't always see eye to eye but we did agree to disagree when it happened.

There were instances when we didn't talk for years or fought every time we talked. So, it goes without saying that our youngest years together were the simplest and there is no one who has your back like your brother or sister. Just don't expect that to happen overnight.

All that being said, I have a great relationship with my sistie today. We've never been closer. It takes time to harvest good relationships. Who knew the toughest to produce would be within your own family.

In the Bible, which is considered to be the living word of God, talked about how Jesus, the Son of God, was rejected by those closest to Him, yes even His own family. Yet, that rejection and persecution never stopped Jesus from loving them.

So, my dear friend, when things in your family life get you down and the relationship with your brother or sister are making you crazy, don't let it stop you from loving them - openly or secretly. Down the road, it's that love that will bring you to a better place with them. No matter what they did to you.

Encouragement for the week:

Being young and at odds with your brother or sister can be tough. Especially when you are already fighting against some things in your life. I understand.

You are a beloved daughter and of precious value. Don't allow others to define your worth.

If you are a Christian reading this, God created you to be a unique girl and woman in Christ. The world never has a say over who you are, for God already made it so when He formed you. You are beautiful. Let it shine.

If you are not a Christian reading this, you can look for Jesus and you will find Him. He holds the truth about you in Him. As you reach out for Him, He will tell you who you really are and empty you of all the lies this world tries to tell you.


Monday, June 25, 2018

In The Beginning



Yep, that's me. I know what you're thinking - how can someone be so incredibly cute?! Dressed in my favorite color with a good head of hair! This precocious girl was born on July 20, 1972 in the heat of summer. Nothing could be more fitting than that because of how much I love summer time! I'm five months old in this picture and preparing to celebrate my first Christmas.

There wasn't really anything that stood out about me when I made my presence in this world. My parents came from simple beginnings and had close family connections. It was key for all of us to be together for the holidays and to share in special times. Even though I don't even remember the day in the photo above, I do remember how we were a close knit family.

In my opinion, there wasn't much about me that stood out. For the most part, I was fairly unassuming and have been told that I was a quiet baby. So quiet, in fact, that there was a particular situation when I was napping on my parent's bed, I believe, and happened to roll off, becoming gently placed in between the wall and the bed.

When my mother came in to check on me, of course I had vanished. With panic stricken precision, she proceeded to check every nook and cranny of the place, thinking the worst along the way. When the whole time, I was sleeping peacefully nestled in the curtains. Some time passed before Mom came across me and breathed a huge sigh of relief. Perhaps, that was the first indication that I would be a girl to travel under life's radar.

Even as I try to recall my life as an infant, nothing significant stands out. I might even be hard pressed to find a lot of people who can recall, vividly, their entire infant existence. In any case, aside from my stunning good looks (beware of facetious nature), I was welcomed and adored by many.

However, that is not always the case for many born under very different circumstances. Maybe you didn't know your father growing up or your mother wasn't present in the younger years. Pictures are missing because it was just too hard to look at the memories of what has been lost. Maybe like me, you, as a young girl, are questioning why you were even born.

I used to think that growing up, even though I was born into a family with a mother and a father who always told me how much they loved me. Unfortunately, situations happen along the way, even at an early age, to set the trajectory of our lives in a different direction. Sometimes, it's an unfathomable direction.

My friend, if you are thinking you are a mistake, stop. You are no mistake. Believe it or not, you were created by God for great things and for lack of a better term...God don't make no junk. The Bible says that God was intricately involved in your creation.

A book within the Bible called Psalms is comprised of laments, poems, songs, and praises. In Psalm 139, Verse 13 it speaks to God's involvement in your life's breath, in the very dynamics of how you came to be. It says, "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb." That is no coincidence or crazy talk. It really happened that way.

So, no matter what you might be thinking of yourself right now as you are trying to navigate through your young life, you are not a mistake. You are loved and valued by me and by the Creator of all things, God. You can believe that. I didn't have an understanding of God when I was younger like I do now, so I hope that you can trust me when I tell you that what I say is true. You are an adored child of a King who died for you and for all, so that you could live a life of goodness and freedom.

Encouragement for the week:

You are not a mistake, as much as you might think otherwise. You are a daughter who is loved and valued even if you see only darkness ahead of you. I understand.

If you are a Christian reading this, God created you for a reason and a purpose. You know that you are not a mistake. You are deeply loved and because of that, you can overcome anything that will come your way. You can trust the Man who died for you.

If you are not a Christian reading this, you can look for Jesus and you WILL find Him. He died so that you could live a free and abundant life. Everything you need can be found in a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Spot On

"The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads 
me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul..." - Psalm 23: 1-3

**Photography by Melissa Talbot**

I'm not much for lists except when it comes to shopping for food. I have to make sure that the things I really want and need are on there, while staying on a budget. After twenty minutes, or so, a meticulously thought out list appears with groups of items to be bought at their respective store. Of course, room is left for the things that will come across my path while food hunting, causing excitement and a curiosity to try. If you didn't already pick up on it...yes, I get excited shopping for food.

In the movie 'The Bucket List', a pair of cancer patients played by Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman, while facing their own mortality, decide to comprise a list of the things they want to do before they, well, kick the bucket.

The items range from skydiving to race car driving, laughing until they cry, to kissing the most beautiful girl (Jack Nicholson's character's grand-daughter), and then sitting at the top of an Egyptian pyramid to helping a complete stranger.

Each time I watch the movie, there is something that prompts me to make a list of things I would like to do before dying. With deep and long thought, I come up short of a significant list like they did. Maybe it's because a lot of what I really wanted to do in life has already been done, sans list. Like international travel, adrenaline rushes, culinary gambles, and finding true love (giving birth to my son).

There were even things that happened that I didn't know I wanted to do until I did them, purely by blessing. Now that I am older, the list is taking on a different form. While there are a couple places I would still like to see - Israel, Bora Bora, and Greece - I need there to be more depth behind the bullet points in my life.

I want it to be more about checking off boxes, not making lists. There needs to be a purpose behind the things chosen to do and the reason behind the choice. Are they on the checklist because of a need to gain attention or popularity? Are they directed at one person or every person met?

It would be easy to think of one thing and do it well. Like ridding a garden completely of weeds. That is no small task so that's probably why I don't have a massive garden most years. Priorities for my life or even for the day, have shifted. They have fallen into a marching order of the things that really need to matter in this one-chance-only life.

Like family and friends. While I may not see or talk to all of my friends and family on a consistent basis, I do pray for them. I pray for peace and hope to fill them and that they would always know they are loved. Often, that comes as a note to them saying, "I was just thinking of you and wanted to say hi!" Or being available to talk when they need more than a text. Check.

I don't want to float through life. I don't want to check the boxes of a superficial list. I don't want it to be all about me, even though those moments can happen often and fiercely. I don't want to be known as a selfish and indulgent woman who never reached out or showed compassion. So, what might the checklist look like for me?

Well, while the list might be long, I hope it will be meaningful. The points or questions of challenge will be well thought out. The spirit in which the points were written will be intentional and genuine. The only danger with making any kind of list is that it can quickly be forgotten or pushed aside, leaving something less fulfilling to take its place.

So, it's a daily decision to keep the checklist in place, somewhere visible, so that the commitment to fully check off each item is honored. That as selfish as I will feel some days, it's more important to ignore myself and reach out to others.

Will I be kind? Check - today was a good day to be kind. Will I be thankful even though things aren't going my way? Maybe tomorrow - I stubbed my toe. Will I help someone in need even though my day is crazy and the ten heavy bags of groceries are ripping my hands off? Check - ouch. Will I think before opening my mouth to deliver a sarcastic comment? Check - silence and grace won out, thankfully.

While I'm not perfect and some of the things on my checklist might take a long time to check off, consistently, it means more to be sincere about the check than to simply do away with it for the sake of getting it out of the way. What does your checklist look like?

Encouragement for the week:

Have you ever made a list of things you have always wanted to do? Were some of them also things that added to your character and integrity?

While lists are great reminders of what we want or need to do, the items checked off with joy and a sense of satisfaction can mean a lot to ourselves and others.

If you are a Christian reading this, you know that your life is not a list of things to check off in order to gain God's grace and favor. It's about hitting the mark in loving God and others.

If you are not a Christian reading this, you can look for Jesus and you will find Him and all the things that He will bring into your heart that you'll want checked off.




Monday, June 11, 2018

I'll Be Back!

**Photo courtesy of www.google. ca**


This week's post will not be done due to the passing of a beautiful woman who lived a full life of love, hardship, diligence, humor, and selflessness. While she leaves a void in the hearts of those who knew and loved her here on Earth, heaven rejoices at receiving a daughter.

I look forward to seeing you in heaven, Anastasia Haluszka! 

Monday, June 4, 2018

S'up??


**Photo courtesy of www.google.com**


If you were to ask me right now how I am doing, it would not be enthusiastic or optimistic in response. When a multitude of things are happening all at once in a person's life, it's hard to be upbeat and positive. It's even harder to express that when someone asks you what's up.

While, I take the time to ask a friend what's on their mind because they look down, I see, more and more, that our society seems to operate at an arm's length. That some people, while having the best intentions, ask how we are without truly wanting an answer. A real answer.

The kind of real answer that could be messy or uncomfortable for the person who asked the question in the first place. An answer wrought with pain, hurt, fear of rejection, or loneliness that may even cause fear in the questioner because it's now becoming a commitment.

A commitment to sit down and listen to someone who feels like their life is falling apart. Someone who might see you as their only source of hope, empathy and compassion. Their only lifeline to getting through another pain-filled day. So, why do so many people ask the question if they are afraid of the answer? Why are people so afraid to ask the question in the first place?

In the Bible, there is a verse that talks about being in the trenches with another person during difficult times. It talks about weeping with those who weep, mourning with those who mourn but also rejoicing with those who rejoice or celebrate. To have compassion and empathy. To walk in the other person's shoes, telling them that you are there for them. Truly there.

While their hurt may not be similar to anything that you have experienced, hurt is universal. Shouldn't care and compassion be universal too? Unfortunately, it isn't and there are many who choose to remain at arm's length. I am not one of them.

I know what it's like to hurt beyond the ability to describe the intensity and excruciating nature of the hurt. I also know what it's like to be walked past by others who never ask how I am. That hurts too but I don't judge or condemn anyone who may not want to ask the question.

Instead, I make a conscious effort to seek out the lonely, the hurting, the rejected. I choose to stand in the trenches with those who are feeling pain beyond anything they've experienced before. I choose to be there with them and pray for them when words fail me or my words fail to comfort them and, instead, I sit with them sharing in a dark piece of their world.

I choose to be a compassionate, empathetic, and caring woman because, for me, it's the right thing to do. At one time, I was a child who loved to play in the mud. Okay, even as an adult, I still love to play in the mud. I don't mind being in the muck or getting dirty. I don't run or shy away from the messy or uncomfortable because I've been in the mud of life experiences and the hurt that can erupt out of those experiences.

I also want to bring hope to someone who may not know the same hope that saved me - Jesus Christ. It was He who helped me get washed off and cleaned up so that I could really care about others and not be afraid to ask and listen to how someone is.

Encouragement for the week:

How are you doing today? Is it a good day or have you been struggling? Has the struggle been going on longer than you like?

If you are a Christian reading this, you know that you are never alone. That God is with you and promises to never leave you. So, even if you are having a bad day, or a bad year, you can keep trusting Him to help you through the tough times in order to bring you in to better times.

If you are not a Christian reading this, you can look for Jesus and you will find Him. He cares about you and how you are doing. He wants to help you through the tough times and bring you into brighter times. He can be trusted.